Four dead, 45 injured in Niger protests over Charlie Hebdo Muhammad cartoon

NIAMEY (AFP) - Four people were killed and 45 injured in a day of violent protests in Niger's second city against French magazine Charlie Hebdo's publication of a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.

Interior Minister Massaoudou Hassoumi said a policeman and three civilians died in Friday's disturbances in Zinder in which three churches were ransacked and the French cultural centre was burned down.

Thousands of protesters gathered outside mosques after Friday prayers to vent anger at the depiction of the Prophet, which is considered taboo to most Muslims.

Twenty-two members of the security forces and 23 protesters were hurt in the ensuing clashes, national radio reported, as one Catholic and two Protestant churches were attacked.

A doctor in the city's hospital told AFP that all of the dead and three of the injured had gunshot wounds.

Twelve people, including some of France's best-loved cartoonists, died in an Islamic militant attack on the satirical magazine's Paris offices last week.

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